Buses of Royson Joseph are parked in a parking lot. Courtsey: Twitter
Gulf Today Report
Kerala luxury bus owners, hit by the pandemic lockdowns for the last two years, are in deep financial trouble and are forced to sell their buses at as low a price as Rs45 per kilo
For Royson Joseph, a luxury bus owner in Kochi, who runs his fleet of buses under the banner of the Contract Carriage Owners Association (CCOA) has made his intentions very clear by deciding to sell his 10 luxury buses at Rs 45 for a kilo.
Things have been tough for Joseph and prior to the pandemic, he had 20 buses of various sizes. Now after two years, he is left with 10 buses.
"Things have become really tough and me and my family are finding the situation really tough. All my buses have taxes to the tune of Rs 44,000 and insurance of around Rs 88,000 that has to be paid. Last week when the Sunday lockdown was there, even when the rules clearly stipulated that prior booked travel is possible, I was asked to pay a fine of Rs 2,000 by the police during a tourist trip to Kovalam. We are being harassed for no reason and today at the click of a button if the vehicle registration number is punched in by authorities, they can get if our papers are in order, but despite all that, we are being fleeced," Joseph said.
CCOA president Binu John said this is not the first time that tourist buses were being sold at a per kilogram rate.
"Many have done it, but they did not want to make a news out of shame. Joseph was very frank and his travails are the same in the industry here and bus owners are in deep trouble as none of the restructuring, moratorium announced have come in full steam for various reasons," said John.
In Kerala, the CCOA has 3,500 members who own around 14,000 buses.
"After the restrictions were lifted, around 2,000 buses of our members have been confiscated for non-payment of monthly installments. The Kerala government in the past two years has waived taxes for three quarters, in one quarter we got a 50 per cent rebate and for another quarter we got 20 per cent rebate in quarterly tax. But these have not given the real solace at all. All our members are in dire straits and we need more help from the government," added John.
A 40-seater luxury bus costs over Rs 50 lakhs and for breaking even under normal circumstances it has to get at least around 20 trips a month. Due to the Covid protocols, there are merely five trips a month now.
The CCOA expects the state and Centre to extend a helping hand so that owners like Joseph doesn't come to situation where they have to sell the vehicles worth lakhs to scrap otherwise this industry could fall into more trouble.
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